The death of Ilyas Kashmiri
Published: June 5, 2011
A US drone strike in South Waziristan killed nine militants, including leader of Harakat-ul-Jihad al-Islami Mohammad (HuJI) Ilyas Kashmiri, BBC Urdu reported on Saturday. PHOTO: FILE
It appears that Ilyas Kashmiri, a top al Qaeda militant, has been killed in a drone attack in South Waziristan – with confirmation coming purportedly from his own organisation. His death, if indeed he has been killed, will come as a huge blow to al Qaeda since Kashmiri was being touted as a potential successor to Osama bin Laden and was the outfit’s military commander. Kashmiri was one of the few men who provided a link between al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. As the leader of the 313 Brigade, his autonomous unit within the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, he drew on his contacts from his time resisting the Soviets in Afghanistan to collaborate with al Qaeda. Connected to both local and foreign militant outfits, his killing should come as a relief not just to Pakistan but all countries afflicted by terrorism.
His killing may also reignite the debate over the use of armed drones in the tribal areas. In isolation, it is hard to conceive of a more effective weapon in the fight against militancy. Drones target specific individuals, thereby limiting the casualties that would be incurred if ground troops were sent into North Waziristan. However, the public relations fight for the use of drones has been lost thanks to theduplicity of the Pakistan government. As shown in leaked US State Department cables, the country’s military and government has authorised, and even welcomed, the US drones while maintaining public deniability. Had our government been straight with the people from the outset, perhaps public opinion against the use of drones would not be strong.
Kashmiri’s killing should also be a cause for reflection in the military. Here was another man who was incubated, trained and rewarded by the military for fighting in Indian Kashmir only to turn against his benefactors. As reported by slain journalist Saleem Shahzad, Kashmiri was likely the mastermind behind the attack on PNS Mehran. The fallout between the military and Kashmiri wasn’t ideological; he had, according to several accounts, refused to serve alongside Maulana Masood Azhar. Even upon his return from Kashmir, Kashmiri was allowed to operate relatively freely. He was arrested for plotting to assassinate General Pervez Musharraf but then inexplicably freed. That Kashmiri has now been killed is good news but that the military-militant nexus isn’t yet dead is cause for concern.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2011.
Just to get the facts straight, this guy was launched by ‘Pak’ Fauj.
An excerpt from a piece of writing by Saleem Shehzad:
So far A-Qaeda has introduced a few leaders for example Ilyas Kashmiri and his highly sophesticated guerrilla 313 Brigade who espoused the global Jihad.
Born in Bimbur (old Mirpur) in the Samhani Valley of Pakistan-administered Kashmir on February 10, 1964, Ilyas passed the first year of a mass communication degree at Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad. He did not continue due to his heavy involvement in jihadi activities.
The Kashmir Freedom Movement was his first exposure in the field of militancy, then the Harkat-ul Jihad-i-Islami (HUJI) and ultimately his legendary 313 Brigade. This grew into the most powerful group in South Asia and its network is strongly knitted in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, India, Nepal and Bangladesh. According to some CIA dispatches, the footprints of 313 Brigade are now in Europe and capable of the type of attack that saw a handful of militants terrorize the Indian city of Mumbai last November.
Little is documented of Ilyas’ life, and what has been reported is often contradictory. However, he is invariably described, certainly by world intelligence agencies, as the most effective, dangerous and successful guerrilla leader in the world.
He left the Kashmir region in 2005 after his second release from detention by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and headed for North Waziristan. He had previously been arrested by Indian forces, but he broke out of jail and escaped. He was then detained by the ISI as the suspected mastermind of an attack on then-president Pervez Musharraf, in 2003, but was cleared and released. The ISI then picked Ilyas up again in 2005 after he refused to close down his operations in Kashmir.
His relocation to the troubled border areas sent a chill down spines in Washington as they realized that with his vast experience, he could turn unsophisticated battle patterns in Afghanistan into audacious modern guerrilla warfare.
Ilyas’ track record spoke for itself. In 1994, he launched the al-Hadid operation in the Indian capital, New Delhi, to get some of his jihadi comrades released. His group of 25 people included Sheikh Omar Saeed (the abductor of US reporter Daniel Pearl in Karachi in 2002) as his deputy. The group abducted several foreigners, including American, Israeli and British tourists and took them to Ghaziabad near Delhi. They then demanded that the Indian authorities release their colleagues, but instead they attacked the hideout. Sheikh Omar was injured and arrested. (He was later released in a swap for the passengers of a hijacked Indian aircraft). Ilyas escaped unhurt. On February 25, 2000, the Indian army killed 14 civilians in Lonjot village in Pakistan-administered Kashmir after commandos had crossed the Line of Control (LoC) that separates the two Kashmirs. They returned to the Indian side with abducted Pakistani girls, and threw the severed heads of three of them at Pakistani soldiers.
The very next day, Ilyas conducted a guerilla operation against the Indian army in Nakyal sector after crossing the LoC with 25 fighters of 313 Brigade. They kidnapped an Indian army officer who was later beheaded – his head was paraded in the bazaars of Kotli back in Pakistani territory.
However, the most significant operation of Ilyas was in Aknor cantonment in Indian-administered Kashmir against the Indian armed forces following the massacre of Muslims in the Indian city of Gujarat in 2002. In cleverly planned attacks involving 313 Brigade divided into two groups, Indian generals, brigadiers and other senior officials were lured to the scene of the first attack. Two generals were injured (the Pakistan army could not injure a single Indian general in three wars) and several brigadiers and colonels were killed. This was one of the most telling setbacks for India in the long-running Kashmiri insurgency.
Within just months of arriving in the Afghan war theater in 2005, Kashmiri redefined the Taliban-led insurgency based on legendary Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap’s three-pronged guerrilla warfare strategy. For the Taliban, the main emphasis was to be placed on cutting NATO’s supply lines from all four sides of Afghanistan, and carrying out special operations similar to the Mumbai attack in Afghanistan. (See Asia Times Online)